Creating a coaching culture to close the (technology) skills gap

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No matter what industry you work in, keeping up to date with technology innovation should not be underestimated. For today’s graduates and new entrants to the world of work, technology is an intrinsic part of their daily life. However, for others, particularly those who have been in the workplace for a number of years, understanding the value and building a reliance on technology has been a slower process.

With technology constantly evolving, the gap in knowledge and user confidence in the workplace is not going to go away. The key to unlocking the value of technology and ensuring all employees embrace it - whatever their level or experience - is to break down barriers between pay grades and department and put processes in place to create a knowledge sharing culture where everyone is given a forum through which to develop and grow their skills. 

There are a number of ways in which HR practitioners can facilitate this and start to foster a culture of coaching.

Mind the gap

It is often thought that experience equals ability, but when it comes to technology in the workplace, there is a lot that the older generation can learn from those just carving out their careers. According to Ofcom, there is a new generation of workers who have a better understanding of technology than their older peers. But while this new talent pool may be technology-savvy, interpersonal and communication skills might not be as developed, and will need more nurturing.

This presents a great opportunity for companies to adopt a supportive coaching culture of sharing knowledge and learning from each other’s experiences. 

No-one enjoys being told what to do. A culture of non-directive management, with a preference to collaborate and involve others, and a passion to listen rather than tell gives employees of every seniority level a chance to learn new workplace skills to enhance their day-to-day roles. This will pay dividends in the long run for the success of the business, staff retention and employees’ future careers.

Create open communities

Setting up communities within a business can help with knowledge sharing across different departments. This is something we have recently put in place, and we’ve found these ‘working groups’ provide the most value when they are self-driven, self-organised and overseen by a sponsor from within the business who can act as a coach and encourage discussion. 

Intended as a forum for people to share their industry knowledge and expertise, they can also help to build confidence among more junior members of staff, as they have a chance to chair meetings and drive debate in an informal setting – which they might not otherwise feel able to do in their day-to-day role. Open to any level, communities can be broken down into different functions or technology fields so someone just starting out their career can learn from those who have been in the role for 20 years - and vice versa. This enables groups to explore new technologies together or grasp a better understanding of the latest industry innovation. It is this collaborative approach that is key to creating a successful coaching culture.

Set a technology challenge

Even in environments where technology is at the heart of what you do, such as ours, setting a technology challenge via a ‘Demo Jam’ can really help to bring technology to the fore and promote a sense of team bonding. This scenario gives staff of all ages the chance to come together to explore technology, identify future trends and innovations and discuss how they can be applied to the business. This could include showing how technology can be used to predict certain scenarios or trends, or how a business can become more agile. The group then has to present its ideas to the wider business in a ‘Dragons’ Den’-style pitch to demonstrate a specific technology process and show how it can add value.

Primarily used by large tech enterprises including SAP, to encourage innovation and creativity among its consultants and partners, the format lends itself to smaller organisations, and the underlying principles can be applied to any business to help them explore new ways of working and unearth hidden talents. 

The possibilities are endless and the challenge gives staff a chance to get creative and show how technology can be applied to solve real business problems, through the varied experience and expertise of a group.

Maintain the momentum

Businesses have a real opportunity to create a supportive culture of knowledge sharing for the benefit of everyone. 

The key to maintaining this mindset is to keep up the momentum and encourage employees to share their ideas and experiences on an ongoing basis and not just within dedicated events and forums. Where possible, make sure open collaboration is at the heart of everything you do. People need to be invited and encouraged to think differently about how they approach the use of technology, feel comfortable to share their ideas and speak up. By making collaboration fun and inclusive, businesses can create a culture of coaching rather than closed, hierarchical teaching. 


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